Plextor PX-B940SA 12x Blu-ray Disc Writer

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Product: Plextor PX-B940SA 12x Blu-ray Disc Writer
Provided By: Plextor America
Price: ~$249.99 USD

 

Introduction:

It's been quite a long time since we've looked at an optical drive here at BCCHardware, and there have been a lot of changes since we took a peak at the Plextor PX-810UF DVDRW.  In fact, since then, there have been a couple of new formats of optical disks hit the market and while HD-DVD is no longer with us, Blu-ray looks like it's here to stay - for better or worse.  Today we are looking at the PX-B940SA Blu-ray Writer from Plextor and checking out this speedy drive and seeing if things have evolved and dropped in price to the point where Blu-ray is now for everyone.  This drive does more than Blu-ray at 12x however.  It can author DVD-R disks at 16x, DL DVDs at 8x and CDs at 40x.  If you're looking for an optical drive that can do almost everything, keep reading to see how this drive stacks up.

Box 

 

Bundle & Info:

The Plextor PX-B940SA comes with almost everything you need to get up and running and writing Blu-ray disks.  Unfortunately, they don't include a BD-R of any sort and this would be a nice little bonus.  Regardless, you get a quick install guide, software CD, screws, SATA cable and of course the drive.

 Bundle

 

The following information has been pulled from the Plextor website and re-posted here for your convenience.

Box SpecsThe PX-B940SA internal 12X BD Writer is the fastest Blu-ray writing speed available in the market today. It provides you with a convenient solution for Blu-ray playback, while simultaneously offering increased storage capacity with BD writing capabilities.

The PX-B940SA can store up to 50GB of data on a single double-layer BD disc, equivalent to 9 hours High-Definition (HD) video or 23 hours of standard definition video. It is capable of recording and playing back today's most popular media formats including Blu-ray, DVD, and CD. It writes up to 12X BD-R DL/SL, 2X BD-RE; reads & writes up to 16X DVD+R/-R, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 8X DVD+/-R DL, 5X DVD-RAM, 40X CD-R and 24X CD-RW.

Bundled with CyberLink’s TrueTheater™ HD technology, you can easily boost DVD video and audio quality to achieve HD-like results and smoother playback. The software turns standard content into HD-quality images, by up-scaling video resolution from 480p to 1080p. You can now enjoy high definition movies on your PC-based home theater.

The Latest Technology

  • Supports Blu-ray Disc writing speed up to 12X
  • Stores up to 50GB on a double-layer BD disc, or 25GB on a single-layer BD disc
  • Stores up to 9 hours High-Definition (HD) or 23 hours of standard definition video on a single double-layer BD disc
  • Converts standard definition DVD content to high definition quality images with TrueTheater™ technology

 

Reliability and Robustness

  • Low Vibration mechanism design improves overall writing accuracy
  • Supports a wide array of BD, DVD, and CD archive and playback
  • SATA interface for better performance & compatibility

 

Creative &  Fun

  • Comprehensive Cyberlink BD Suite software included - authoring and burning, data archiving, disc playback, slideshow creation, video editing, and more
  • Enjoy picture-perfect quality and digital surround sound on your PC-based home-theater system


 

 

Specifications:

Plextor claims to have the world's fastest Blu-ray writer on their hands with the PX-B940SA, and while this is true at the time of publishing, that never seems to last long.  In the meantime, they are not alone on the 12x BD-R write podium.  They share the spotlight with several other companies.  In fact, this drive seems to be a rebranded Pioneer drive and if you are super cost conscious, you may want to save a few bucks and go that way.  On the other hand, Plextor has always had a warranty that is second to none.  Consider the price and warranty before you make a decision.

 Specs



 Specs

 

Closer Look:

The PX-B940SA isn't all that impressive of a drive physically.  To be honest the front of the drive looks very 1999 with the large round green LED and simple button.  Even this looks more traditional of Pioneer drives.  If beauty is only skin deep, it shouldn't matter much though.  The backside of the drive is very simple as well.  Most drives are SATA interface now and it is nice to see this drive supports SATA as well.

Drive Front
Drive Front
Interface
Interface on Rear

 

The label includes some information that rounds up the loose ends.  It was manufactured in November of last year there is no mention of an updated firmware at this point.

Label
Label

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the bundled software, install the drive and start testing.

 

Installation:

We've used this drive on a couple of systems here at BCCHardware throughout testing.  We used a Phenom-based HTPC hooked to a HDTV as well as a test rig running a Core i7 CPU and Windows 7.  The Core i7 920 system was used for most of the testing and the software installation and write tests were done on this system.

 Software Screen
Software Screen
CyberLink Suite
CyberLink Suite

 

Plextor has included a full suite of CyberLink software including PowerDVD, PowerProducer, PowerDirector, Power2Go, InstantBurn, PowerBackup and LabelPrint.  This software seems a little bloated and clunky and actually compares quite well with a Nero 9 Suite.  I prefer the older text-heavy Nero 6, but progress dictates pretty software and by all rights it works just fine.

 

Drive Info:

Before we jump into testing we offer you a look at the Nero Info Tool that gives you a look at the read and write capabilities of this drive.  On the previous page you can see the read and write speeds for each of these formats.  I like the way the data is displayed below so we've included it although it is a bit redundant.

Nero Info Tool
Nero Info Tool

 

On the next page we'll take a look at read testing before we jump into write testing and wrap up the review of this drive.

 

Read Testing:

We fired up the Opti Drive Control software that neatly graphs out the read and write speed of disks and displays the data clearly for reference.  This drive is advertised as being able to read DVDs at up to 16x and it manages to reach that speed easily.  Seek times are great with our DVD-R media however.

 DVDR - Read
DVD-R - Read
DVDRAM - Read
DVD-RAM - Read
 DVDDL - Read
DVD Dual Layer - Read

 

DVD-RAM disks are stated to be read and written at 5x and the PX-B940SA has no trouble reading the Maxell 5x DVD-RAM disk at full speed.   While the drive states that read and write speeds on Dual-Layer DVD-R/+R media is 8x maximum, you can see by the chart (above, right) that the read speed tops out over 12x at the edge of the disk.  That is pretty impressive and it actually average 8.94x which is very respectable.

 

As we move on to Blu-Ray media we take a look at both BD-R Single Layer and BD-R Dual Layer disks.  BD-R Single Layer disks are getting to be quite affordable at ~$3 / disk but Dual-Layer disks will set you back almost $30 per disk.  This is crazy and shows that Sony is controlling the Dual-Layer prices in order to prevent people from making straight copies of disks.  It works.

 BDR - Read
BD-R SL - Read
BDRDL - Read
BD-R DL - Read

 

The BD-R media reads very fast at 8x and the overall performance of the drive when it comes to reading is more than adequate.   Dual-Layer disks read very fast and we see a burst rate of over 33MB/sec on the Dual Layer disks with burst rates climbing over 36MB/sec on Single Layer Disks.

On the next page we'll take a look at write speeds before we wrap up our first BD-Writer review.


 

DVD Writing Tests:

Now that we've seen that the PX-B940SA is a capable reader, we'll follow up with some writing tests on both DVD and BD-R media.  We used a limited selection of media, but the drives performance seems to be consistent on older media as well as brand new disks.  It managed better than rated write speeds on everything except the BD-R DL media.  It was rated at 4x and the drive fell a bit short of that.

 DVDR - Write
DVD-R - Write
DVDRAM - Write
DVD-RAM - Write
DVDDL - Write
DVD-R DL - Write

 

I find the write speed of the DVD-R disk very impressive at 5:45 for a full 4.7GB disk.  The average was 11.11x using Constant Angular Velocity recording but you can see that the buffer starts to run down a bit toward the end.   Although our DVD-RAM disk is rated at 5x, the drive wasn't able to write at that speed and continued with a very slow 2.4x speed through the disk.  The Dual Layer DVD-R disk worked a little better at 6x and this is actually quite good considering the media is Verbatim disks rated at 2.4x.  Thankfully, the speed was better than 2.4x.  It still took almost 19 minutes to write the disk.

 

BD-R SL and BD-R DL Write Tests:

The big thing with a Blu-ray drive is to test Blu-ray disks.  Granted, we all want it to be a well-rounded drive, but if it sucks writing and reading 25GB and 50GB disks, we don't care how well it reads and writes regular DVDs.  We've managed to pull off a couple of tests but our Dual Layer media was limited as it costs $30 a disk here in the Great White North.

 BDR - Write
BD-R SL - Write
BDRDL - Write
BD-R DL - Write

 

I used Verbatim 4x BD-R 25GB disks as well as TDK 6x BD-R DL disks.  The write performance was less than stellar using Opti Drive Control.  Neither of the disks achieved their maximum write speed and the Opti software actually crashed when I was about 97% through the Dual Layer BD-R.  Thankfully both disks could be read and because the disks were full of random data and not movies, they played back on the drive just fine.  This is something to note though that BD-R disks are not always going to give you the write speeds you may expect.  As media becomes more widely available and as drive firmware matures, this will improve, but a fast BD-R writer is still the purchase of early adopters - and that doesn't always work out as we hope.


In the end, it took over 36 minutes to write a full 25GB disk at an average of 2.54x.  The disk started well, then scaled back just as it approached 3x speed.  Even though the disk is rated faster, the drive scaled back to ensure a good quality disk and in the end, I'd rather have a disk I can read than a coaster that took a few minutes less to make.

 

Conclusion:

This is the first BD-R writer we've had the pleasure of looking at and while they've been around a while, the speeds have certainly increased over the last year as the prices have continued to drop.  This is good news for consumers and once media becomes ~$1.00 for a 25GB disk and $5 for a $50 GB disk, things will really take off.  In the meantime, the PX-B940SA is a good step in the right direction as it offers a full array of media writing and reading capability and can easily be the only optical drive in your system.  Earlier BD-R drives were sluggish when it came to reading and writing DVD and CD media, but this Plextor drive offers great speed across all media types.

The only downfall is that BD-R SL and DL writing speeds were not that impressive.  I bought the fastest Dual Layer media I could find and it never exceeded 3x write speeds.  If you need or just plain want a fast BD-R, DVD-R, CD-R writing drive, the PX-940SA should be on your short list.  It may not be the best drive out there, but according to reviews that I've seen of other drives, it's pretty much on par with anything else that is available.

Pros:

  • Fast 12x BD-R write speed (rated)
  • Full software bundle
  • Excellent warranty support
  • Fast reader and writer of all media (tested) except BD-R
  • Support for +/- DVDs, CD-R, CD-RW, BD-R, BD-RE media

 

Cons:

  • Wasn't able to write BD-R SL and DL media at rated speed
  • A little expensive compared to other similar drives
  • 12x BD-R media not available so fast speeds are moot at this point

 

 BCCRating

Silver

 

I'd like to thank Plextor for sending over the PX-B940SA for us to review.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them at the "Comments" link below.